World / Asia-Pacific

World Bank to launch emergency fund to combat Ebola

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-11-04 17:26

SEOUL - The World Bank is working with the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations and other multilevel developing banks to create an "epidemic emergency fund" to fight against Ebola and other epidemics in future, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said here on Tuesday.

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Kim told a press conference after a symposium that the fund will be like an insurance, with many billions of dollars, that would only come into existence if there is an outbreak of epidemic.

The fund, which would borrow money from global markets at very low rates, could finance the epidemic response and the response teams from all over the world and get an epidemic under control timely.

Kim, formerly a medical doctor and professor in public health, said if cases were caught early and intensive therapy can be provided, the survival rate from Ebola can be very high.

"If you think why it takes so long to respond, probably because we did not have a fund that could be rapidly disperse literally billions of dollars to fight the epidemic," said Kim, who is also a former advisor to the World Health Organization's (WHO) director general known for his efforts to combat the AIDS/HIV.

The World Bank chief added the vast majority of an epidemic impact from outbreaks was not usually due to the virus itself but "due to fears around the virus."

"So for example, (if) we have been able to immediately begin attacking the virus in January 2014 when it really first became an issue, we could avoid all of this impact both in terms of humankind and economy," said Kim.

The outbreak of the deadly virus has killed almost 5,000 people around the world, according to the WHO. The World Bank estimated that if the Ebola epidemic continues to spread rapidly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and spreads to neighboring countries, the two-year regional financial impact could reach 32.6 billion US dollars by the end of 2015, dealing a potentially catastrophic blow to already fragile states.

Kim again called on Asian countries, with a wealth of medical personnel, to send more trained health professional teams to the three West African countries to contain the outbreak of Ebola at its sources.

He also thanked China for sending medical responders to the three worst-affected countries, as well as South Korea and Japan's contribution to sending military, medical personal and funds to the region.

The World Bank announced on Thursday an additional 100 million US dollars in its Ebola response activities for three West African countries ravaged by the epidemic.

The additional fund aims to speed up deployment of foreign health workers to the worst-affected countries. The total support package of the bank has gone up to 500 million dollars.

Related: World Bank pledges $100m more to fight Ebola outbreak

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